The Doctor is In: Medicine in French Prints

Jan 17, 2015 - Jul 31, 2015
Volpe Gallery

Beginning in the seventeenth century, artists increasingly depicted scenes of everyday life in their work. The doctor’s visit, generally showing a male doctor visiting a female patient in her home, became a popular subject in paintings and prints. As medical knowledge and scientific training progressed over the following centuries, artists presented a wider range of interactions between doctors and patients. Some artists featured doctors as caring, learned professionals, while others showed charlatans promoting dubious remedies. Images often included medical iconography used in symbolic or satirical ways to comment upon political events and social mores.

This exhibition explores the different ways that European artists both documented and interpreted health issues and medical practices of their time. While some works rely on long-established artistic conventions and outdated medical practices, others respond to trends and breakthroughs in treatment or focus on either lauding or lampooning the most famous physicians of the day. Works by the great French printmaker and sculptor Honoré Daumier and his contemporaries demonstrate the wide use of medical imagery to criticize King Louis-Philippe’s government (1830-1848), while works by Hermann-Paul and Charles Maurin consider the public and private aspects of the impact of illness on the average citizen. The exhibition is selected from the Zimmerli Art Museum’s rich collection of European prints from the Renaissance through the twentieth century.

Organized by Christine Giviskos, Associate Curator of European Art, with assistance from Leeza Cinar, Department of Art History, Rutgers University, Class of 2016

Etienne Carjat (French, 1828-1906)

Le Docteur Malgaigne, 1862 


13 9/16 x 9 13/16 in. (34.5 x 25 cm) 

Gift of William H. Helfand